When Allison wanted a second child and researched her options for fertility treatments in the US, she suffered a bad case of sticker shock.
The Orlando, Florida, strategy consultant, who asked for her last name to be withheld for privacy reasons, was quoted “astronomical” figures for IVF. They ranged from $25,000 for a single procedure to $50,000 for the three rounds her specialist recommended for an optimal chance of conceiving.
“My company’s health insurance wouldn’t cover the cost,” Allison told The Post. “I needed alternatives.”
Intrigued by comments on fertility blogs and Facebook pages, she found that she could go abroad and get treatment at a fraction of the cost in America. After crunching the numbers, it was a no-brainer.
“The savings were insane,” she recalled, adding that she sought online advice from people who’d returned from their destination pregnant and ecstatic.
Those struggling with infertility are increasingly looking abroad for affordable, high-quality treatment options. Oren Gersh, founder and CEO of Health-Tourism.com — an international organization that coordinates treatments as far afield as Turkey, Singapore and Thailand — reports that IVF is the second most popular procedure booked by his clients after cosmetic surgery. And, while traveling for treatments of any kind took a pandemic dip, a recent analysis by HealthCareInsider.com found that fertility treatments are helping lead the recovery in the medical tourism sector.
“Cost is a significant motivation and people can get access to world-class private medical centers with no waiting lists,” Gersh said. “They might also benefit from being away during a very personal, sensitive time.”
“I met other Americans [at the facility] who were just as satisfied,” Allison said, adding that her total expenditure on IVF, travel and hotels in the Czech Republic was around $17,000 for three rounds, about $33,000 less than what she was quoted in the US. “It’s a great choice for people with an open mind and an adventurous spirit.”
New York fertility expert Andrea Syrtash, founder of the advocacy platform Pregnantish, understands the appeal of cheaper IVF overseas but advises women to be cautious.
“They should know that not all labs or health care providers are created equally,” Syrtash told The Post. “It’s important to do your research and look at factors in addition to cost.”
Allison, 47, can’t fault the care she received in the Czech Republic. In 2018, she and her husband travelled to Brno, a two-hour drive from Prague, in a desperate bid to get pregnant. She was assigned an English-speaking intermediary, but found the hospital physicians spoke her native language. A subsequent trip, in July 2019, resulted in a healthy pregnancy.
The experience was so positive that she and her husband decided to give birth in Spain, where it would be cheaper to pay out of pocket than going through insurance in their home state of Florida. In March 2020, they checked into the Quironsalud Murcia Hospital on the Mediterranean coast after making arrangements through Health-Tourism.com.
“We planned to stay three weeks either side of the birth, but extended it to three-and-a-half months because of the pandemic,” said Allison, who had a private room in the hospital for two nights.
While the overall savings were relatively small — costs for the epidural, delivery and aftercare were around $1,000 less than the average $4,500 cost of a vaginal American birth — the mom believes the laid-back Spanish culture provided a more relaxing setting than the US for her post-natal recovery.
“Since it was during COVID, we were really trying to stay away from people,” said Allison.
The same desire for a private, stress-free experience led Jordan and Errikos Anagnostopoulos to look to Greece. The Houston couple received a frustrating diagnosis of unexplained infertility in 2018, and found they could get a round of IVF for $10,000 in Errikos’ homeland. In the US, they were told the same procedure would cost about $30,000 per cycle.
“Neither of our jobs offer insurance coverage for fertility treatments so it made sense,” said Jordan, a 34-year-old teacher. (New York and New Jersey now require large-group insurance policies to cover fertility treatments, but those who are self-employed or work for a smaller company are out of luck.)
She underwent IVF in Athens in June 2020 and was impressed by the overall care, with some caveats
“It’s a patriarchal society and the male consultant seemed more comfortable communicating with my husband,” Jordan said. “But the language barrier was never an issue.”
Sadly, none of their fertilized embryos was viable for transfer. But, a lengthy consultation with an experienced physician in Thessaloniki unearthed the reasons behind their fertility problems. They had both experienced persistent infections in their reproductive areas, contributory factors overlooked by American doctors for more than a year.
The breakthrough led to a series of tests and specialist treatments in the US, particularly for Jordan, who was later found to have endometriosis. After the problems were treated, the couple conceived naturally in June. Their longed-for baby is due in February.
“Our doctors in Greece were truly skilled and competent,” said Jordan, who is thrilled by her pregnancy news. “I’d 100 percent go back to Europe for treatment.”
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